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A Baltimore entrepreneur’s new platform aims to topple tech silos

Local connector Patrick Rife hopes Baltimore Creators will help sustain momentum after in-person intros.

The Baltimore Creators site. (Danya Henninger/Technical.ly)

While local tech and business culture continues to thrive via meetups and other initiatives, some Baltimoreans say innovators and organizers often get tunnel vision once their own projects get rolling. 

Patrick Rife, founder of photo booth tech company Pixilated, is working to change that perception with a new digital community: Baltimore Creators.

The Baltimore-area native and seasoned tech scene connector created the platform out of frustration over this sense of isolation that traditional networking can’t always fix. Potential relationships discussed while exchanging contact information at in-person events can die a quick death as people are subsumed back into their daily grind.

“One of the things that kind of always bothered me — there’s a lot of siloization with schools, nonprofit [and business],” Rife said. “You go to a great networking event. You meet amazing people. But it can be really hard the next morning to build momentum. You aren’t a burning problem in their email box.”

About a decade ago, Rife co-created Startup Soiree to help break the ice. The COVID pandemic put a damper on the endeavor, but the concept remained top of mind.

I’m a firm believer that what Baltimore needs most and will always need most is to build our own thing.Patrick Rife

“Ever since then I’ve been wondering what version 2.0 would look like,“ he said. ”I see it starting as programming that will help people get together — less of a TED Talk, more of a lunch and learn.”

Baltimore Creators isn’t an events producer in and of itself, at least not yet. It instead revolves around a simply constructed website using the Skool community network. It is inclined toward putting folks in direct contact with each other, after in-person meets happen, to inspire practical, actionable exchanges of ideas. 

Helping entrepreneurs find the ‘fusion point’

The community and platform embody Rife’s mission to help nurture, grow and move Baltimore’s startups to a bigger seat at the economic table. He echoed this mission in a post on his blog, “Ground Control,” where he described Baltimore Creators as a place to further dialogue

“I’ve been using the word FUBU (For Us, By Us) to discuss Baltimore Creators,” Rife wrote. “Why? Because I’m a firm believer that what Baltimore needs most and will always need most is to build our own thing. Importing events and branded ideas are only going to get us so far.”

So far, he’s invested more time than funding into Baltimore Creators, he said. Much of his effort centers on carefully building a waiting list before the platform’s hard opening. That moment may come sooner than later: Rife hinted it could be just a few days or weeks into the year.

His hope is that Baltimore Creators can provide actionable interactions, rather than vague, long-term ideas.

“What you really need is in-the-moment learning,” Rife said. “I think that is really a fascinating place because it builds empathy.”

Companies don’t go from zero to millions of dollars in revenue “without a ton of bumps in the road,” he said, but with relationships and innovations that come from Baltimore Creators members working together, those bumps might be smoothed over.

In that respect, Baltimore Creators differs from other platforms like BMore Tech Connect, which acts as more of a clearinghouse for resources and networking in Baltimore’s tech sector. 

“This is a hearts and minds campaign more than anything,” Rife said. “You have to get out and find people. It’ll be better because they’re a part of it.”

That includes innovators from all points of the startup business universe, he said.

“In my opinion, real innovation comes when a technologist and a barber meet,” Rife said. “When tech meets a mundane idea — that’s the fusion point.”

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Companies: Pixilated

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